Every Building Should Become a Solar Electric Plant

By Steve Melink
solar

Okay, your company spends only about 5% of its P&L on energy. Naturally, you think there are bigger opportunities than worrying about your energy spend, right? You know, things like cost of goods and services sold, salaries and wages, and perhaps your capital expenditure budget. Besides, you’re not in the energy supply or solar business, you’re a retailer or professional service provider and you should stick to your knitting, as the saying goes.

But here’s the thing: Energy is more than just an innocent line item on your P&L. In this age when climate change is becoming increasingly catastrophic and affecting hundreds of thousands of people and properties every year due to an increase in droughts, wildfires, floods, and hurricanes, sitting on the sidelines and doing nothing is no longer socially acceptable. The solution is for all of us to reduce our carbon footprint by investing in or purchasing clean energy rather than fossil fuel energy.

Sure, we can wait for the federal government to try and solve this problem, but the opportunity for every business leader is to get ahead of it and become part of the solution. The ignorance is bliss strategy is getting less tenable every day in the social media world in which we live. If you do the right thing for the environment, you will enhance your brand and attract better customers and employees. If you play dumb and ignore climate science, you risk the market judging you as a fossil fool.

What about the higher cost of clean energy vs cheap fossil fuel energy, you ask? That’s an old narrative, by and large. The most successful companies in the world, like Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft, are investing in more clean energy every year. Yes, it’s good for their PR – but’s they’re also saving millions of dollars every year in energy. The cost of solar power has been driven down more than 80% over the last 10 years, for example. Maybe it’s time for you to consider solar power.

How? Well, assuming you own one or more buildings, an easy place to start is your rooftop space. You don’t have to use land that might be better purposed in the future and the installation cost is typically lowest this way. You could also install a solar canopy over your parking to not only provide shade for your employees and visitors but charging stations for their electric cars – which are coming faster than you may know. Or, if you have spare land, that is also an option.

Imagine your own solar array generating all your electricity on a sunny day and significantly reducing the amount your utility charges you every month. Sure, the solar array will not generate as much on cloudy days and nothing at night, but you will be able to generate most of your own electricity with free power from the sun … and save money. And, again, more importantly, you will be able to tell your story about how you are now part of the solution.

Let’s say you lease your facilities rather than own them. Well, educate your building owner and tell them you, as their customer, want to work in a space that provides clean energy. Another alternative is to purchase clean energy from your utility. In other words, don’t let them tell you that you must buy dirty energy from a coal or natural gas plant. Most utilities offer a green power option nowadays which forces them to invest in or purchase clean energy on your behalf – and the cost premium is often zero.

Of course, there is a greater economic opportunity if you install your own solar array than if you buy clean energy from your utility or some other middleman. You capture the profit on the electricity generated rather than someone else. Plus, you have a visible means to tell your story to your employees and customers. After all, your brand is everything. Hence, the title of this blog.